9 things you need to know about dating a non-affectionate person

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We all like a little challenge. When someone feels impossibly distant, it can feel especially triumphant when he or she starts to give us some attention. 

But when you find yourself spending more time dating someone who feels a little less affectionate than what you are used to, it can feel cold, confusing, and hurtful. 

Don’t worry too much! This experience is new and there are some things to keep in mind when you are dating a non-affectionate person

1) Remember that little gestures can mean a lot

Some people simply don’t like grand displays of affection, like kissing, hugs, cuddles, and holding hands. But your partner may still like to be touched and loved. 

He or she might like to make a little physical contact with you in a very subtle manner. He or she might like to brush their arm against your arm, place a hand on your thigh, or caress your hair. 

Remember that it generally feels unnatural for your partner to do these little gestures.  So reaching out to you might mean a lot to them. 

As a very independent woman, I’ve dated some very non-affectionate partners. One was a theoretical physicist. He spent much of the day mulling over gravitational field theory computations. 

Despite being Italian, he was quite reserved and rarely showed stereotypical romantic gestures. But I certainly got to know how he communicated his affection.

For example, every time I took the train to see him when the doors opened, he would be standing at the exact spot where I would step down. 

He always came early, spotted me in the window, and ran to the platform to greet me. When we locked eyes, he would give a little wink and flash a charming smile. 

And I knew that he wanted nothing more than to see me at the moment. That little wink felt warmer than any passionate kiss or bold hug would. 

2) Mirror their behavior 

Try to watch how your partner touches you. Take some time to learn his or her body language. They may be very expressive with their eyes and offer you a little eyebrow raise to communicate something secretly known between you. 

Your partner might touch your neck in a certain spot that they like to massage because they find it very attractive. 

If you notice, you can start to respond to these cues and communicate affection back in a similar manner. 

Try to peel away any expectations of how you think he or she should act towards you. Get to know your partner. 

By mirroring their behavior back to them, you might physically communicate with them in a way that is more comfortable for them to understand. You might also find new ways to express affection

3) Let them come to you

Your partner will not change overnight. It may take some time for them to start being expressive. Be patient. Give your non-affectionate partner the space to show affection in his or her way. 

If you try to force them to act in a certain manner, they will surely resist. Try to lean back a little. Observe how they come to you. 

Offer some kindness and compassion towards them when they do. This will allow them to act more freely and uninhibited around you. 

The last thing you want is your non-affectionate partner feeling flustered, overwhelmed, or stifled because they think they should be different. 

4) There are many different ways to show affection

A kiss isn’t the only way to say, “I care for you.” A hug isn’t the only way to show how much you have missed a person. Perhaps he or she cares for you a great deal but shows it in another way. 

Affection to us can be something as thoughtful as making soup for you when you are ill or writing a little funny text to uplift your mood. The person you are dating might be: 

  • Someone who is more logical and wants to find the connection with you with words and shared beliefs.
  • Someone who likes to do little special gestures and actions for you, like cooking a meal or taking you to a beautiful vista in nature.
  • Someone who likes to give you presents and little gifts to show you they are thinking of you and care. 
  • Someone who spends their free time with you and lets you know they enjoy doing so.

5) Tenderness might only be shown privately

It’s also important to remember that non-affection people tend to be much more comfortable being physically affectionate in private. 

If you are out in public, he or she might feel watched, or judged, or uneasy about expressing how they feel towards you. 

He or she may have grown up in a small, gossipy town, or know a lot of people in the area where you go out on dates, or have a certain reputation they are trying to uphold. 

If you are in a quiet, private place, it might be easier for them to show their softer side. There’s a time to have public displays of affection and that’s in private, where your partner can unleash themselves to the fullest. 

If you are asked by your friends and family if your relationship is struggling or on the rocks, you might need to repeat the truth,“ He’s very different at home,” and this is perfectly fine. 

6) When physical affection happens, it can feel even more special

On the occasions that your partner does touch, embrace and caress you, the experience means even more. As you grow closer and know when you are both letting some walls down, and truly expressing vulnerability and a raw openness, it feels even more tender. 

Although it can be challenging to care for someone who is non-affectionate, the moments that you build of closeness and intimacy together will feel stronger than with anyone else. 

7) They will need time to recharge if they’ve been affectionate

If your non-affectionate partner has expressed a really strong surge of passion and emotion, give them some time and space. Don’t expect it to happen again right away. 

You might even have to anticipate that he or she will pull away or distance themselves from you. Being affectionate might be emotionally exhausting for your partner. And they have to build up the desire and vibrancy to repeat the same level of passion, or even more. 

Just enjoy the affection and stay patient. Keep your expectations low so that you can be pleasantly surprised by your partner. 

8) They might be unsure of you

When someone feels distant and unaffectionate, it could also mean that they are seeing your relationship differently than you are. 

Some people are perfectly capable of engaging in sexual behavior without an emotional connection. Or they might be confused about their feelings towards you. There can be a lot of reasons for purposefully being a little cool:

  • Your partner might be taking things slow to figure out how they feel and if they want to continue to invest in your relationship. 
  • Perhaps he or she has changed their mind about your interactions. We might be warm and affectionate when we first meet someone and pull away because we don’t want a relationship with that person, but we like spending time with them. 

So your partner can become quite distant and simply excuse their behavior by labeling themselves as non-affectionate. 

All of this could point to being in a one-sided relationship, in which case you need to decide whether it’s worth sticking around with this person.

9) This person might be playing games 

We don’t always like it when our partner is overly affectionate and tender. 

Sometimes the aloof thinker or tortured artist can be the one we find sexy and fall for. However, it might be that he or she enjoys withholding warmth and affection to see how much energy and effort we will bring to them. 

It can be a major ego boost to see how much someone will come running towards you when you put forth very little affection. The person you are dating might purposefully act aloof and disinterested and non-affectionate to make you show clearly how you feel. But be careful, this could just be a game for them. 

If you want the hard truth, check out these 15 brutal signs that he never loved you. It might be worth reading to do a little reality check on your situation. 

Consider the following when you interact

As you move forward with this non-affectionate person, make sure you consider how they make you feel and if it is something that you would like to continue. Don’t worry so much about pleasing them. 

1) Know exactly what you are feeling 

When you are interacting with a non-affectionate person, try to understand the exact emotion that is arising within you. Our emotions are a signal to us. 

They tell us to take action. If you are feeling a sense of rejection, can you go deeper than that? What is it that you are feeling? 

  • Is it anger? It might mean that you have an expectation that is not being met. 
  • Is it loneliness? It might mean that you need to reach out more to your partner. 
  • Is it hurt? It might mean that you have to communicate a need to your partner that is lacking. 

Usually, a strong, persistent, negative feeling is a clear message. It is calling us to change either our perception of the situation or how we are approaching it. 

You need to know what is going on within you first, to understand how to act.

2) Do you need to change your perception?

When you know exactly what you are feeling, the next step is to ask yourself: “Is it really true?” 

You might think your partner is non-affectionate because he or she doesn’t hug you or kiss you when you meet on a date. But this might not be how they greet their lover. Keep in mind your partner might be: 

  • A very shy person
  • Comfortable with other expressions of affection 
  • Clueless that this is an issue for you
  • From a culture where affection is expressed differently

3) Communicate your needs nicely

If you do like to cuddle up on the couch with your partner or hold hands while walking in the streets, have you let your partner know? 

Try not to expect the person to read your mind. Find new ways to communicate your needs

Remember to be sweet. You like this person! Let them know they aren’t disappointing you. 

Keep your requests light, playful, and clear.

Know when enough is enough

Remember that dating someone who is unaffectionate Isn’t going to be easy if you are more affectionate. 

Sometimes after we have taken the steps to communicate our needs and express patience, our relationship with a non-affectionate person is still not enough. You might honestly need a stronger sense of connection and intimacy from your partner. 

Your relationship might simply feel too strained and confusing to continue.

Remember that dating is supposed to make both people feel good! Not all relationships last. 

There’s no need to feel frustrated with someone who is unaffectionate. We can try to understand them more, but they may never change. 

In reality, you might need to be with someone else who is easier to understand and relate to. 

You want to feel like you and your partner can both be the true, natural, wonderful selves that you both are!

If you are constantly doubting or confused about your partner’s feelings towards you, it’s perfectly ok to give your interactions a break or walk away. 

Remember that you need to be able to feel loved and appreciated without trying to feel like you are altering yourself or someone else. 

It’s perfectly fine if you realize you need more or something different. 

So make sure to express affection first and foremost to yourself!

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

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